New Castle News

Local News

November 14, 2012

New Castle Schools: Bandmates keep tooting their own horns together

NEW CASTLE — A love for the trumpet brought them together eight years ago and made them friends for life.

New Castle High junior Herbie Hunkele and senior Ryan Mitcheltree have come a long way since then — all the way to Three Rivers Young People’s Orchestra, where they are the only two performers from Lawrence County.

However, the pair didn’t always make beautiful music together, especially when they sat together in the trumpet section at George Washington School in 2004.

“I wasn’t very good,” admittex Herbie. “I’d rarely practice and I couldn’t get that great of a sound.”

His father, Herbert Hunkele, agreed. “When Herbie started, I thought there was no way he would make it. And we couldn’t help much because neither my wife or I played an  instrument.”

But after Herbie’s braces came off in sixth grade, the trumpet just seemed to fit better. Soon the sound got better, too.

And Herbie had Ryan in his corner. Their personalities seemed to mesh from the beginning.

“Back then, the relationship was more of a mentor/apprenticeship thing,” said Ryan, who played first chair in eighth grade to Herbie’s second chair.

“Herbie tended to rush things and I had to slow him down,” Ryan said.

Ryan was the more natural musician, but Herbie began to show steady improvement.

Their talents continued to blossom in high school, and so did their interests and opportunities.

They marched beside each other in the high school band for the past three years.

In addition to having a lead role in last year’s school play, Herbie is a member of the jazz band, Red Coat Band and Lawrence County Community Band. He also takes private lessons.

Herbie was invited to join the Three Rivers Young People’s Orchestra, and he travels to Pittsburgh for practice every Saturday. He recruited Ryan to the group,  bringing the friends together again.

But maintaining such a schedule also comes at a cost. Herbie had to give up playing baseball last summer.

“You have to clear your schedule,” said Ryan, who is also a member of district band and honors band.

Herbie is looking forward to next month’s young people’s orchestra performance of Divorak’s 8th symphony, a 40-minute piece. “I have never played in a group with so many strings,” he said. “Every ensemble and group is a blast.”

Herbie aspires to be a teacher and a band director for a high school or college. Duquesne, Youngstown State University and Slippery Rock — each with stellar music departments — are his college options.

He practices every day, but still takes time to throw the football around a little bit.

“It does get to be tiring, and sometimes I need to just to relax my chops. But then I get right back into it the next day.”

When he isn’t playing the trumpet, Ryan likes to hang out with friends and play video games.

Ryan is thinking that Slippery Rock University will be his next step. After that he wants to teach high school or college students to play an instrument and perhaps direct a band.

“I love everything about music,” Ryan said.

(Email: d_burcham@ncnewsonline.com)

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